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Why Have Moscow Police Searched the Home of a Journalist Who Wrote about Syria?

News Brief

“I am being searched. Good Morning.” With those words journalist Pavel Nikulin announced on Twitter that police were going through his apartment after turning up at his door early this Wednesday.

Nikulin came under pressure last year over an article he wrote in the “New Times” magazine about a Russian citizen who had joined Islamic militants in Syria, and Nikulin said the search was linked to this piece.

Police conducting the search said Nikulin was a witness in a case related to allegations of “providing training to terrorists,” according to Roman Klimov, a lawyer for the NGO Open Russia, who went to the journalist’s home after learning of the raid.

The police team took away Nikulin’s electronic devices, copies of Moloko Plus — the magazine he edits — as well as T-shirts with its logo, said Klimov, in a report carried by the Mediazone site.

It’s the latest case of Russian journalists being harassed or pressured over their reporting. The country remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Last June, a Moscow court fined the “New Times” magazine for publishing Nikulin’s article about a young ethnic Russian man from the city of Kaluga, near Moscow, who had converted to Islam and joined the Jabhat al Nusra front in Syria. The newspaper was forced to take the article down, but it can still be found on other sites.

Before the ruling, Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor had warned The New Times that Nikulin’s article contained elements that amounted to the “justification of terrorism.”

The New Times’ editor, Yevgenia Albats, denounced that warning as “classic censorship”, noting that President Vladimir Putin had publicly acknowledged that thousands of Russia citizens had travelled to Syria to join Islamic militants fighting there.